Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. (1 John 3:13)
Question: It seems that Christians are being despised and even discriminated against more and more by the “powers that be” and others in the world that do not share their conviction of faith; and extreme evangelicals are only making matters worse. Is it possible that our freedom of worship could be taken from us if time goes on?
We certainly hope and pray that the freedom of worship that we enjoy will not be taken away or affected in any way. It is also true that it shouldn’t be taken for granted and could be viewed as becoming more “fragile” based on recent events and the attitudes of some in our country. As we contemplate this question, we would like to consider how the view of Christians has been affected in the past, and how reverse discrimination is very much at play in our society today.
The Scriptures do make it clear that, as believers, we can expect to face some form of persecution from the world-at-large as the day of our Lord’s return draws near. We recall what the Apostle Paul told Timothy, This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come… Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:1, 12-13).
Yahweh has declared from the beginning that mutual antagonism can be expected between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). The record of history has demonstrated that this has been the case, with millions of believers in the one true God, both Jew and Gentile, having suffered persecution down through the centuries, even unto death. We know Christ warned the Apostles multiple times that they would experience the world’s hatred (John 15:19-20; 16:2, 33; 17:14), as would those in the early ecclesias. The Apostle John thus wrote that believers must “not marvel if the world hates them” (1 John 3:13); in fact, they should expect and prepare themselves for such hatred.
Let’s think about the early Christians and the position they were in. The Jewish brethren had to resist the pressure to capitulate to the demands of the Judaizers. The Gentile believers also refused to compromise their loyalty to Christ and were persecuted because they would not submit to the demands of the Roman government, including the worship of Caesar. This refusal to conform caused the members of the early ecclesia to be hated by the world around them. Some were even labeled as insurrectionists.
The other reason for being hated by many of the members of pagan society at the time was the uncomfortable feeling that the presence of the Christians caused. Their strict morality was a constant reproach to the ungodly ways of the world around them. The same is true today. The basic demand of the Truth was then, and is now, that we must develop the courage to remain separate from the world and refuse to conform. Indeed, we must be constantly on guard as Paul warned, evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13).
We also agree with the questioner that some Christians and their extreme views and violent actions are only making it worse for those whose only desire is to follow the humble and meek example of Christ and the advice he gave to his disciples: to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). None of us, for example, would ever think of participating in protests; but, we are all aware of how some who claim to be Christians have been at the forefront of some of the recent protests, even the one on January 6th in Washington, DC that culminated in the assault of the US Capitol.
One of the co-authors of the book, Taking America Back for God, was asked about the role of the religious right in the January 6th march in Washington and the assault on the Capitol. His response was: “The Capitol insurrection was as Christian nationalist as it gets. The best evidence would be the use of sacred symbols during the insurrection such as the cross, Christian flag, ‘Jesus saves’ sign, etc. But also, the language of the prayers offered by the insurrectionists both outside and inside the Capitol indicates the views of those who obviously thought Jesus not only wanted them to violently storm the Capitol in order to take it back from the socialists, globalists, etc., but also believed that God empowered their efforts, giving them victory.” (Samuel L. Perry, Professor of Sociology at the University of Oklahoma)
Such violent acts are nothing new in the history of man. Many have taken up arms and shed innocent blood in the name of God and His righteous Son throughout the ages. We recall the Crusaders, for example, who fought against the Muslims in the 12th and 13th centuries. Countless thousands were slaughtered by these “Christian” soldiers as they overtook the Muslims and occupied their cities, including Jerusalem. The point is that the actions of one faction can taint the whole, much larger group – in this case the entire Christian religion.
It is sad but true that religion has often been directly linked to the worst examples of human behavior. Some say that more wars have been waged, more people killed, and in these days more evil perpetuated in the name of religion than any other institutional force in world history. We know that has been the case with Muslim extremists and terrorists such as ISIS and the many other Islamic jihadists’ groups. As evidenced by recent protests and violence in the streets of cities too close to home for many of us, Christians have exhibited behavior that is also fueled by their claimed loyalty to their God and their right to fight for what they believe in.
Unfortunately, these “extremists” and their violent actions, often motivated by hatred for those who do not hold their same views, have had a negative effect on even moderate Christians. We, as Christadelphians, who some might label as “fundamentalists,” can get painted with the same brush (and most unfortunately, we have also been labeled as a “cult” as observed by anyone googling Christadelphians as a denomination).
As fewer and fewer in the country identify themselves as practicing Christians, and as our society becomes more and more secular and politicized, we can only see the trend of public acceptance and tolerance of our strongly held beliefs becoming less and less. Sadly, such trends and political pressure could eventually constrain our ability to worship and speak freely in a public forum about what we hold dear. The warning to us should be clear and bring to mind Proverbs 22:3, A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.
We are not saying that we should discontinue professing our faith to others; for surely, we must be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15). The clear message though is this: we must be prudent and vigilant in how we present ourselves to unbelievers, particularly knowing that there are those who are looking to incriminate anyone who does not hold views similar to their own. This cannot be truer in this age of technology and the internet. Let us then be particularly wary about what we say and what we post on social media that could be interpreted the wrong way and held against us!
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil... And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:1-3, 5).